World

Malaysia’s king urges fractious lawmakers to back budget

Muhyiddin grapples with pandemic and leadership challenge, with over 16 motions of no confidence filed

KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysia's king urged lawmakers yesterday to put aside political disagreements to pass the 2021 budget "without disturbance", as Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin grapples with the coronavirus crisis and a leadership challenge.

Mr Muhyiddin's administration is scheduled to present its first budget on Nov 6, amid a challenge for the premiership by opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim and at a time when his credibility is seen to have taken a hit after a failed attempt to secure royal assent to declare emergency rule.

The king, Sultan Abdullah Ahmad Shah, said next year's budget is vital in helping the public manage the coronavirus and restore the economy.

He met Mr Muhyiddin in the morning to receive a briefing on the crucial supply Bill.

The king called on lawmakers to abide by his decree for an end to all political disagreements "so that the 2021 budget can be passed without disturbance".

"His Majesty reminds MPs that political fights for personal interest will be a loss to the nation and the people will be come victims at a time when the country is still struggling to face the threat of Covid-19," the palace said in the statement.

Opposition leaders said they could support the budget if the government grants equal access for all lawmakers to resources and avenues to provide input and carries out reforms.

Mr Wong Chen, a lawmaker with Mr Anwar's Parti Keadilan Rakyat, said in a post on Facebook that the reforms should include establishing "an unfettered right" to table a motion of no confidence in Parliament.

Parliament Speaker Azhar Harun said more than 16 motions of no confidence in Mr Muhyiddin's leadership have been filed, the Utusan Malaysia daily reported.

Mr Muhyiddin, who has a thin majority in Parliament, is also under pressure from coalition partners who have demanded more powerful positions, while a coronavirus resurgence is battering the economy.

RESPITE

But Mr Muhyiddin gained some respite on Monday when Umno, a key ally, walked back on threats to withdraw support as did Islamist party Parti Islam SeMalaysia.

In a separate development, Malaysia's health director-general Noor Hisham Abdullah said polls should be put off for the time being with the Covid-19 situation still at a severe stage.

The country should learn from the Sabah election, which became the starting point of the current wave in the state and the rest of the country, he added.

"Even though there are SOPs (standard operating procedures), (what's) more important is whether the people comply with the SOP.

"We have learned from Sabah. We hope not to repeat the consequences of having an election in other states," said Dr Noor Hisham on Tuesday.

Yesterday, Malaysia recorded 801 cases taking its total to 29,441. There were eight deaths taking the toll to 246.

Indonesia's infections have passed the 400,000 mark, with 4,029 cases yesterday. There were 100 deaths taking the toll to 13,612.

The Philippines recorded 2,053 cases and 61 deaths. Total cases there have risen to 375,180 while deaths reached 7,114. - REUTERS, THE STAR

WORLD